By Ryan Berry
GREENVILLE — The Darke County Park District (DCP) was able to accomplish two feats with one event on Saturday when it hosted its annual Maple Sugarin’ and Friends of the Darke County Parks Waffle Breakfast. Not only were they able to preserve history, but it also served a fundraiser for Friends of the Darke County Parks through the sap that is boiled down into syrup at the Sugar Shack.
DCP Director Roger Van Frank says it teaches the history of what Darke County is about. The director said that when he was hired to run DCP, one of Susan Gray’s questions was what he knew about making maple syrup. Van Frank said he had experience from his work with Hueston Woods and was able to detail the process.
Although Shawnee Prairie had hundreds of visitors on the day of the event, they were not the only people to take tours and learn more about making maple syrup. Van Frank estimated they welcomed approximately 400 students. “We really wanted them to see how it was, not only collected by the Native Americans, but how it was boiled down. This is more of an early 1900s operation and this is what our ancestors did,” he said.
In addition to teaching about history, Van Frank said this also teaches people about natural foods. He said Native Americans and pioneers would boil the sap down even further and then let it solidify and they would use it as sugar throughout the year.
How many gallons of sap does it take to make one gallon of syrup? According to Van Frank it takes anywhere from 40 to 50 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. DCP made 30 gallons of syrup this year, which means there was a lot of time, effort and patience put in by park volunteers. Pint jars of the syrup are currently available at the Nature Education Center gift shop.
Van Frank said he looks forward to this event every year because it seems to be the “marking of spring.” People that have been cooped up for a long time and finally have a reason to get out of the house.
The DCP director is also noticing a positive difference in attendance since COVID dampened the festivities for several years. “I am eternally grateful to see everyone here,” he said.
As with all DCP events, Van Frank credited his staff and a long list of volunteers for making it possible. Just for the one-day event, he said they had approximately 40 volunteers on-hand. From the waffle breakfast to the log house and blacksmith shop, volunteers and staff members made sure everyone had a great time. “Our volunteers are the best,” he said.
To contact Daily Advocate Editor Ryan Berry, email [email protected]